Record Store Day
Fuck Record Store Day. Yeah, I said it. Tomorrow is Record Store Day, one of the phoniest events since Sweetest Day. The “event” was created in 2007 as a “celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA.” The concept and the idea behind this event really make me sick. And I’ll tell you why.
1. When you visit the event’s website you are greeted with a link under the More Stuff banner for WARNER BROTHERS VINYL. Yes, one of the MAJOR record labels is an “exclusive” supporter of this event. Ridiculous. Any major label that supports this event are phonies who are only after the money. Ten years ago the major labels had a chance to be at the forefront of the impending Internet market. And they screwed it up. Ten years ago the industry had the opportunity to cap the prices on their new releases and radically alter their overall pricing policy. Instead the labels were concerned with the Minimum Advertised Price. Ten years ago the labels could have thought through their policies, all of which had an effect on independent record stores. They didn’t. Yes, iTunes is revolutionary software and store that would probably had the same effect regardless of its launch date. As someone who has illegally downloaded music (but always bought the entire disc afterward) there were ways to cultivate and maintain a fan base and treat it well rather than ripping it off at every turn. This event is sponsored by WEA, UNI, and Sony. The big three. Crooks, all of them.
2. I would bte that this event adds nothing to the overall business of the typical independent record store. I asked the owner of a prominent East Lansing fixture about the product for Record Store Day. You submit your order and hope you get everything, due to the extremely limited nature of the product. Then you wait. Then you get the stuff and sell it. And that is it. Do you really think that any of the dudes (make no mistake, I bet 99.5% of Record Store Day customers are dudes) who have wedges of cash or free space on their credit cards go into these shops on Record Store Day with the intent of shopping for more than the specific releases? If I went into a store Saturday that was out of the Flaming Lips LP boxed set I think I would just go home. Maybe I would browse, but maybe not. I think that the customers Saturday will treat the store inventory as if they were shopping for tickets. See, when we sold tickets at my record stores we would face the weekly onslaught of customers with fistfulls of cash looking for tickets. If they bought their hundreds of dollars in tickets they would then take the tickets and leave the store, buying nothing else. If they shows sold out those left in line would take the fistfuls of cash and leave the store, buying nothing. I doubt this is different for Record Store Day. What about the other 364 days in the year? Does anyone honestly believe for a SECOND that hunting for something rare in a store means you will return to that store for more? More new releases you can buy online whether it is at Amazon.com or iTunes for discounted prices? OR at Best Buy, if they even still carry music, at deep discounts? Are you telling me that if you buy a limited edition double 7” that you will really go back to the store on a consistent basis? How long before you happen to be shopping at some big box and see the CD you just bought for five bucks less? Is your loyalty to the independent store so strong that you are willing to pay MORE, or at least FAIR VALUE for product rather than saving a buck or two?
3. Record Store Day, to me, represents the worst and most unsavory aspect of the industry: the music geek. I am a music geek; at least I used to be one. I spent eleven years working in record stores. This “event” caters to the die-hards, the spotty unwashed losers who care about nothing but music and their craven desire to get the rarest of the rare records. In my eyes, this event brings out the absolute worst stereotype of a music buff. These people, these “fans” should need no incentive to visit independent record stores. They should not need a special event with special releases to get them through the doors of the local brick-and-mortar. Petty, cheap, small minded, elitist completists that are only looking for items to complete their own little collection and improve their own little worlds. I looked through the list of releases for this year. Some interesting stuff, some I want, and some I don’t want. But I could see that for the hardcore music geek it would be enticing and there are several desirable items. But why? Tossing all these items out into the market to be flipped into the secondary market is just using a tool to take advantage of tools. Spoiled, petulant, unrelenting shithead music fans who have empty lives that revolve around nothing but music. Sure they probably have jobs, some might even have girlfriends or wives, but they don’t have nearly the distractions of some of us do. You know, people with lives.
4. I think, at the end of the day, the reason I HATE WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY VERY BEING Record Store Day is because I cannot celebrate it. If I were working at Wherehouse Records in the midst of this event I would be all over it, picking out what I wanted, cherry picking the best stuff for myself, listening to my purchases for hours. I can’t do that now. I have a job. I have a small house with a wife and two kids. I have a CD player that skips. I have very little in the way of true disposable income. And above all else my retail instinct and the internal desire to shop left years ago. Yet still I pine for those days in the past. Selling records, interacting with people daily, conveying the feeling I felt for music to others is where I felt the most comfortable in my life. I was damn good at it, and my mind works in such a way that it seemed almost geared towards selling music. I am not that guy anymore. I wish I was. I resent that I am not that guy anymore, I resent people who don’t have kids, who have disposable income, who have the free time to enjoy Record Store Day and the fruits of the day. Sometimes I desperately wish it were different. Sometimes. I wish I listened to 16 hours of music a day, I wish I had open ears trying to hear and find new things at every turn.
And then, sometimes I don’t. I suppose I’m happier now, with a fuller life, more on my mind and people that depend on me. In my head I’m 36, soon to be 37, with my record selling days long in the past. But in my heart I’m in my early twenties with a burning passion for music, all kinds of music, anything I can hear. I feel like that guy, the one in my chest. But I’m not. And for all the reasons that I wish I was that guy in my chest I’m glad that I’m not. Ultimately for me Record Store Day represents something that I wish I was, something I wish I still was (sometimes), and something that I will never forget about being.
I hope nobody gets the releases they want.